Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: journalism

Blogging the Big Event

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(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

A few years back, I was visiting New York when there was a big earthquake in Los Angeles.  Everyone in New York was saying how lucky I was to not be in LA, but I actually felt depressed.  There was finally a big Los Angeles communal event that everyone was invited too — and I missed out.  This feeling of missing out on a big event is not unusual.  I know someone who was out of New York during 9/11 — and has been pissed about this for years.  While most New Yorkers can tell you exactly what they were doing that day, my friend has the embarrassing distinction of being in a hotel room in Denver.  Does it really matter that he was watching the event on a TV in a Denver hotel rather than his Brooklyn apartment?  Apparently, it does.  He can’t tell others the story about "being there."

Things have only intensified with the growth of blogging.  As I was making my rounds of blog-reading today, I noticed that every New York blogger was weighing in with his opinion or experience with the big NYC transit strike.  As is usual now, traditional media has turned to bloggers for "eyewitness accounts" of events such as the transit strike, and have used blog posts in their newspapers.  In fact, I  recently reviewed a book for Blogebrity titled, 2005: Blogged (edited by Tim Worstall), which is a collection of blog posts commenting on the big news events of the year.

I’m jealous of all you New York bloggers who got mentioned in today’s news media because of your blogging about your experience walking from West 76th Street to West 67th Street.   A blogger knows that he only has one chance to strike gold.  Newspapers and TV shows have a deadline to make, and they can’t wait for procrastinating bloggers to perfect their "I was there" post on some news event.  No, it is the blogger that gets there first that gets the media mention.  An ambitious blogger needs to wake up 5AM every morning, and be ready and willing to write a post on any big event that occurs in their city.  You also need to write it fast, especially if you want to be the first one on Technorati with the story. 

My big problem is that I’m lazy.  I don’t like to wake up early.  I procrastinate.  I want the fame and media attention, but I don’t want to work for it.  So, I’ve taken a page from the traditional media in order to ensure that I will always be the first at bat with a hot story.  I will use a technique perfected for decades by obituary writers.  I will pre-write my important posts.  Do you really think that that the NY Times didn’t have their Ronald Reagan obituary ready for publication years before the president actually passed away?  

Despite my flu, today has been a very productive blogging day.  I’ve written about the next big earthquake in Los Angeles and how it brought me closer to my wacky neighbors.  I wrote a very amusing post about my 2006 New Year’s night out.  And 2007.  And 2008.  You are going to be amazed at what I saw at the amazing Opening Ceremonies at the Torino Olympics, and how proud I was to see that one free Iraqi bobsledder enter the stadium.  I especially enjoyed my post about waiting in line all night to be the first to see Daniel Craig as the new James Bond.  All of them are now ready in my draft mode.

Clever, huh?  Can you guess who is going to be first one listed in Technorati when the next LA earthquake hits?  Luckily, my mother is here, so I’ve been preparing her to be my plan B in case of any emergency during an earthquake, such as the power going out or my apartment building collapsing around me.  I will quickly call my mother in New York via cellphone and get her to publish the post for me.

"Mom, it’s easy.  Log in.  Yes, now go into WordPress, just like I showed you.  W-O-R-D-P-R-E-S-S.  Under Manage.  Under Drafts.  Blog… Mom… Blog, not Blodge.  Do you see where there is a post titled "The Big One."  No, not in the comments.  No, I’m not yelling. That’s just a loud aftershock.  Yes, in Posts.  Under Manage.  Mom, are you listening?  Mom, my apartment building is on fire and my upstairs neighbor just fell through the ceiling.  Please pay attention as I try to walk you through this.  I want to be first on Technorati with my personal account of the earthquake!" 

Maybe I should ask my Uncle Milton to be Plan B instead of my mother.

Anonymous Sources

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Like everyone else, I get most of my reading done in the bathroom.  

First up was Psychology Today.  I was half-way through reading a cliched article about how cohabitation is bad, when I read this sentence:

"Charles, a 44-year old New Yorker (who asked that his name be changed) admits that in his 30s, he almost married a live-in girlfriend of three years for reasons having little to do with love."

Bored, I started thinking about Charles himself.   Why didn’t he give his real name?  Who is this guy?  How did the writer find this guy?  Did he just happen to perfectly exemplify the point the writer wanted to make?  Is this "Charles" her personal friend or did she meet him on the street?  Or does he even exist? 

Let’s make believe I want to branch out into writing articles for magazines or newspapers.  Let’s say I want to write an article on adults who love… say… Curious George books  (I’m looking at one on my bookshelf).   Where am I going to find people to quote?  How do I find someone who will tell me "I love Curious George."

Well, I do know this guy from college who used to have a Curious George keychain.  I guess I could call him up and ask him if I can quote him.   What if he doesn’t want me to use his name?  I guess I could change it to "Roger."

Or, to make it really easy on me — I can just make up a person:

Roger (his name changed), a stockbroker in New York, admits that he loves Curious George to this day, even carrying a Curious George keychain.

But that would get me fired, right?   Maybe that’s why I’m not writing articles.

Anyway, while I was still in the bathroom, I tossed aside the Psychology Today (does anyone remember when it used to be an legitimate magazine?) and opened up the New York Observer.  I love to keep up with the latest trends in New York. I started reading this article about how blue-eyed men were the flavor of the day in Manhattan, and tons of men were getting blue-colored contact lenses.   "How intriguing!" I thought.  But, then I reached this quote:

"I think blue eyes, on an unconscious level, create an impression of being sincere and trustworthy," said one 32-year-old female writer who pleaded anonymity, still nursing wounds inflicted by one blue-eyed bastard.

What’s this?  Another anonymous person who just happens to prove the writer’s point?   Is this luck or coincidence?

Looking to learn more, I asked Jill (not her real name), the 34-year-old editor-in-chief of a popular New York magazine, who told me that part of the writer’s job is finding people to quote.

"Interesting," I answered.  "And do you think I would be suitable for writing a freelance article for some big magazine."

"Absolutely," said Jill (not her real name).  "I’ve been reading your amazing blog and think you would be perfect for many assignments.  Hell, if there was an opening in my magazine, I would make you editor right now.  I would recommend you to any EMPLOYER out there.  Have you thought of working in TV again?  There’s more money in that."

Jill (not her real name) had a point. 

I decided to ask Trevor (fake name also), a 41-year-old TV producer of three top rated shows.   Trevor (fake name) was extemely excited to talk with me:

"Neil, you would perfect for so many shows.  You have such a creative mind.  I love that weird relationship you made up with that Sophia character."

"Well, she’s not exactly a character.  I mean she is a character.  But she is real.  We did get married seven years ago.  She does exist."

"And all that stuff about you being separated and still being friends.  That is so funny… sitcom stuff.   That’s all made up, right?"

"Actually, it’s true.

"Oh.  Well, then it’s pretty sad.  That’s too bad."

"Uh… what about the job you were going to give me?"

"Forget it.  You’re too much of a downer for sitcoms.  And I’m sure Jill (not her real name) agrees that you’re not right for magazines, either."

"You can’t do that or say that.  I made you both up.  You’re fake characters in a stupid blog.  You aren’t even a real editor-in-chief or a producer."

"Sorry.  Didn’t you ever hear of characters taking on a life of their own?  Now, please leave the office.  We have a lunch appointment with Brooke Shields at the Polo Lounge."

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